Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Blazing ahead with past trailblazers

This is the fifth year that Business North Carolina has highlighted business and civic leaders from smaller communities that often don’t receive much of a media spotlight. Here are some updates from previous Trailblazers.



Sara Bell was featured in our inaugural Trailblazers because of the success of Saluda-based Green River Adventures and The Gorge Zipline, which she started with her husband, Tim. Last year, Sara was named CEO of the Polk County Community Foundation, which manages more than $75 million. “With her impressive entrepreneurial background and deep commitment to both Polk County and the Foundation, she is the perfect person to write the next chapter that the Foundation will play in our community,” board chair Tom Jackson said. 

The Bells’ adventure business employs more than 70 people in peak season for a variety of wilderness experiences, including one of the steepest and longest ziplines in the nation.

Cúrate Bar de Tapas won a 2022 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Hospitality, highlighting a decade’s worth of hard work and success.


Asheville restaurateur Katie Button filmed a third season as the host of Magnolia Network’s “From The Source,” a series exploring the origins and stories behind different food ingredients. It is expected to air later this year. Katie Button Restaurants has expanded beyond its Cúrate restaurant in downtown Asheville to include an online marketplace, wine club and culinary journeys to Morocco, Portugal and Spain. Earlier this year, the group added La Bodega by Cúrate, a market, pintxo, wine bar and cafe in Asheville. 

Cúrate Bar de Tapas won a 2022 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Hospitality, highlighting a decade’s worth of hard work and success.


Outdoor apparel retailers Cory McCall and business partner Rob Gasborro closed their Outdoor 76 store in Cherokee because of a lack of business during the winter season. After consolidating resources, the owners reinvested in their Franklin and Clayton, Georgia locations, which have seen significant growth year after year.  

In June, Outdoor 76 helped get the City of Clayton and Georgia’s Rabun County established as the 51st designated Appalachian Trail Community, a program that helps promote the famous trail running from Georgia to Maine. Local officials say the designation will help attract more hikers to visit the area.

In 2019, McCall was appointed to the Southwestern Community College board
of trustees.


Sadrah Schadel and Mike Woliansky of No Evil Foods in Weaverville have gained attention for their leadership in sustainability while continuing to expand their alternative meat company. Their latest product, Best Life Beef, is now available in more than 300 Sprouts supermarkets nationally.

The company produces plant-based alternatives to meat. It has ranked in the top 100 companies listed in the FoodTech 500 by Forward Fooding and received Impact and Eco Innovation awards from Real Leaders. No Evil Foods is avoiding the use of plastic packaging, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Earlier this year, Schadel succeeded Woliansky as CEO. “She has always been the visionary heart and soul of this brand,” he said in a press release. 


Jeremy Smith started JSmith Civil in Goldsboro in 2016 with four employees and two pickup trucks. The construction company has grown like a rocket since then with more than 190 employees, according to its website. It has been ranked in Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies for the last three years. Its revenue soared 349% over that period. “We have had a tremendous year of growth, adding new faces to our team and even opening a new office. Our ranking, growth and success would not be possible without the hard work, dedication and integrity of all those at JSC,” Smith told Inc

Earlier this year, JSmith opened a Raleigh office. It has more than $45 million in projects in the Triangle region. 


Sam Rauf left Chatham County Economic Development to join its peer agency in Wake County. The move came before the N.C. Economic Development Association named him its “Emerging Leader of the Year’’ at its June annual meeting. Rauf helped colleagues including Chatham EDC President Michael Smith attract VinFast, the Vietnamese company that plans a large electric-vehicle assembly plant in
the county.


As head of the Wilkes County Tourism Development Authority, Thomas Salley worked with others to convince Speedway Motorsports to add a Nascar race back at North Wilkesboro Speedway. The racing circuit plans to host its All-Star race next year at the speedway, which hasn’t had a major Nascar event since 1996.

More than $20 million in federal and state support will help improve infrastructure around the 75-year-old speedway. Nascar has deep roots in Wilkes and Salley worked with various community leaders to press for a revival at the track. Construction of Fairfield Inn and TownePlace Suites hotels will push the number of hotel rooms in Wilkes County to about 500 by 2024, Salley says. 

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